The West 1 team (the Mustangs split into two teams to help fill the tournament field) got off to a good start in the National Collegiate All-Star Championships in Glendale, Colo. Thursday with a 29-14 win over the Northeast.
The Northeast used a crash-heavy game plan in the early goings to control the action, and penalties handling errors help slow the Mustang attack.
“We knocked it on quite a few times, and I think the first half penalty count was skewed against us, so we were really costing ourselves in terms of possession,” said West and Colorado coach Jim Snyder, “I think the penalties cost us in terms of points, too, because nine points came from penalty kicks.”
Slotting those penalties for the Northeast was Yale center Ryan Vandersloot, who was pointed out by Northeast and Buffalo head coach Mike Hodgins for having a good game. Hodgins also commended Harvard flyhalf Gabe Cunningham.
“He manages the game really well,” said Hodgins. “He’s got a really good tactical foot and manages the game really solidly.”
Outside of Vandersloot’s kicks, the Northeast struggled on offense. And once the West stopped stubbing its own collective toe in the first half, the Mustang backline put the game out of reach.
“In the second half we made a couple of adjustments, and I think the nerves kind of wore away and the guys started playing well and we were able to keep the ball in hand,” Snyder said.
Scoring the West’s first try in the second half was Missouri lock Dan Kloeckner, and scoring the last two was Texas State’s Jeff Easthagen. The Northeast’s sole try of the day was dotted down by Columbia openside flanker Derek Lipscomb.
“He really gave us fits,” said Snyder of Lipscomb. “He was picking the ball quite a bit, real tough to tackle. He was a big, strong kid and gave us a lot of grief.”
Both Snyder and Hodgins pointed out the play of the West midfield, where Northern Colorado’s Kyle Hitt shined at inside center and Nebraska’s Erwin Schmidt played well at No. 13.
“They were a pretty good center combination,” said Snyder. “(Hitt) was one of the best players we had in camp. Experienced kid, hard nosed, really brought a lot to the table, just a lot of go forward, and he’s a really good kid with a good head on his shoulders.”
Despite losing, Hodgins seems upbeat about the Northeast’s play.
“We were actually pretty encouraged by the performance,” he said.
“We scrummed really well, our lineout went good, and we actually played good defensively. Those tries came on turnovers, and sometimes that’s a hard thing to stop, so we’re just going to have to continue tomorrow to get a little bit better at how we’re looking after the ball in contact, and we think we’ll be pretty good for Saturday.”
Saturday the Northeast gets another crack at the West, this time against their second side, which fell 91-3 to the Mid-Atlantic Thursday. West 1 will try to avenge the beating of their fellow Mustangs the same day, when they take on the Sharks.